The Goodness of God

I’ve been meditating on the goodness of God toward me in Christ Jesus, His infinite love and patience, and the well-spring of His grace that transcends my ability to merit an ounce of it—even if given 10,000 lives to try. As a result, I was reading in one of my favorite theologies, Lectures in Systematic Theology by Henry Thiessen. Here are some bits and pieces that I found edifying:

In the larger sense of the term, the goodness of God includes all the qualities that answer to the conception of an ideal personage; that is, it includes such qualities as God’s holiness, righteousness, and truth, as well as his love, benevolence, mercy, and grace. It is probably in this broad sense that Jesus said to the young ruler, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18). In the narrower sense, however, the term is limited to the last four qualities named.

  1. The love of God. God’s love is that perfection of the divine nature by which God is eternally moved to communicate himself. It is not a mere emotional impulse, but a rational and voluntary affection, having its ground in truth and holiness and its exercise in free choice. This is not to deny feeling, for true love necessarily involves feeling….The assurance of God’s love is a source of comfort to the believer (Rom. 8:35-39). A loving God is not unfeeling toward his own.
  2. The benevolence of God. Because of his goodness, God deals bountifully, tenderly, and kindly with all his creatures. “The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works…The eyes of all look to Thee, and Thou dost give them their food in due time. Thou dost open Thy hand, and dost satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Ps 145:9, 15)….The benevolence of God is manifested in his concern for the welfare of the creature and is suited to the creature’s needs and capacities (Job 38:41; Ps 104:21; 145:15; Matt 6:26).
  3. The mercy of God. God’s mercy is his goodness manifested towards those who are in misery or distress. Compassion, pity, and lovingkindness are other terms in Scripture that denote practically the same thing. Mercy is an eternal, necessary quality in God as an all-perfect being, but the exercise of it in a given case is optional. To deny the freeness of mercy is to annihilate it, for if it is a matter of debt, then it is no longer mercy. God is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), “is full of compassion and is merciful” (James 5:11), and has “great mercy” (1 Pet 1:3).
  4. The grace of God. The grace of God is God’s goodness manifested toward the ill-deserving. Grace has respect to sinful man as guilty, while mercy has respect to him as miserable and pitiful. Scripture speaks of the “glory of His grace” (Eph 1:6), “surpassing riches of His grace” (Eph 2:7; 1:7), “manifold grace” (1 Pet 4:10), and “true grace” (1 Pet 5:12).

All four of these qualities flow out of God’s goodness toward sinners like us. Today, let us “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, Fofr His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Ps 136:1).

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